CRIME AND PUNISHMENT

Geographic, cultural differences
Considering that populations may be widely dispersed among urban areas
and rural, remote and very remote areas, it’s reasonable to consider
whether these geographic and cultural differences impact how people view
the role of punishment in the criminal justice system.

To explore this, we examined data from 2004, 2008, 2011 and 2015, and
compared variations in answers from urban and rural respondents to a
number of questions dealing with attitudes towards crime and punishment.

The first question asked respondents: “What is the BEST way to deal with
young offenders who commit violent crime?” Those from rural
communities favoured punishing violent young offenders significantly more
than those from urban areas:
The second question asked respondents to indicate their agreement or
disagreement with the following statement: “We must crack down on crime,
even if that means that criminals lose their rights.”
While both rural and urban respondents favoured limiting the rights of
offenders in the name of being tougher on crime, support from rural
communities was significantly greater than those from urban areas:
The third question asked respondents: “Do you favour or oppose the death
penalty for people convicted of murder?” On this query, rural support of the
death penalty was significantly greater than it was in urban communities:
Rural communities ‘more punitive’
We then combined these questions and answers into an index in order to
have a more comprehensive measurement of punitive attitudes. This index
clearly showed that, when all measurements were taken together, rural
communities were significantly aligned with the “more punitive” category
and urban communities with the “less punitive.”
The next phase of this study, which is currently underway, will
consider why those who live in rural areas are so much more punitive than
city-dwellers.

Urban-rural divide in Canada
Our study also highlights that attitudes towards crime and how to control it
may be a central component of these political differences.
For example, we found that there is a significant trend towards a decrease
in punitive attitudes in Canada as a whole. But those from urban areas are
driving that reduction, and the gap between rural and urban communities
on questions of crime appears be growing:
This suggests that we should consider how political values inform attitudes
towards crime and punishment, and how these attitudes themselves

contribute to growing political divisions between rural and urban
communities.

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